The panel was formed following a critical report from the US Department of Justice.
Frederick, Md (KM) The Frederick County Board of Education on Wednesday will listen to recommendations from a task force set up to review special education programs. The panel was formed following a US Department of Justice report that the School System violated state and federal laws in disciplining special education students, including the use of seclusion and restraint.
The report was released late last year. A short time after that, then-Superintendent Dr. Theresa Alban stepped down from her position.
The task force was charged with reviewing current practices within the Special Education Program, and make recommendations for the program structures, resources and training for staff. Members held six meeting between May and June 2022, and came up with 48 recommendations. They include creating a feeder pattern that oversees current de-escalation training and professional learning experiences for all district staff; put together a professional learning experience in prevention, de-escalation and intervention strategies for all school staff.
Other recommendations include exploring a neutral third party to evaluate, investigate and audit all specialized programs; examine locations of current specialized programs to expand placement in additional feeder patterns; create an advocacy center for families which provides support , information and best practices.
The report calls for adding a behavioral support position at every elementary school , nd require a behavioral specialist as one of the positions at each school; reduce special education workloads and increase staff planning time in all specialized programs. It also says special education teaching staff should be increased in all schools, along with special education administrators and coordinators in all schools.
One of the task force members was Angelique Vigilotti, whose son is in a special education program in Frederick County Public Schools. She says he was abused during his time in the program. ..”Sometimes it’s really difficult for me because I come to meetings with people that I trusted that had a hand in facilitating some of the abuse with my child, and sometimes I cry after the meeting,” she says.
Vigilotti hopes these recommendations will help future special education students and their parents.
Judi Redona was also a member of the task force. She also is a parent of a child in special education. “And I hope that the work will continue through the school itself because I think they have the tools themselves that they need to make the changes that are necessary to really make life better for our kids and all of us,” she said.
Comments by panel members were recorded on a video which is part of the background material provided to School Board members for Wednesday’s meeting.
By Kevin McManus